Say No to Online Pornography




The National Assembly (NA) on Tuesday (19 March) decided to keep in place the prohibitions against the distribution of –

  • Sexually explicit material that violates or disrespects human dignity; and
  • Content which is degrading of human beings.

According to Cause for Justice (CFJ) Executive Director and Legal Counsel, Ryan Smit:

“These amendments to the original text of the Bill constitute justifiable limitations to freedom of expression and give expression to the “objective normative value system” contained in the Bill of Rights.”

“It serves as confirmation that constitutional freedoms – in this case ‘freedom of expression’ – may not be used to violate people’s inherent worth or human dignity. Any attempt to employ freedom of expression for such purposes, would constitute an abuse and illegitimate exercise of constitutional freedoms. We accordingly agree with and welcome the NA’s decision declaring that such actions are illegal/unlawful.”

The Bill will now go to the President, who must decide whether to assent to and sign the Bill or send it back to the NA for reconsideration based on reservations about the constitutionality of the Bill.

READ MORE HERE: Press Release – Parliament says no to vile and dehumanising porn, as Bill goes to President





Cause for Justice has had two significant further opportunities to engage members of Parliament and highlight our specific concerns with the Bill. Our updated written submissions were delivered to Parliament on 4 September 2018 and considered by the Select Committee on Communications and Public Enterprises (the committee) the next day. A week later, on 12 September 2018, we made oral submissions to the committee and answered members’ questions.

On 24 October 2018, the Committee rejected proposals to remove the prohibitions against the distribution of materials that violates human dignity or that is degrading of human beings.

While the Bill still contains certain troubling proposed amendments, the vindication of the right and value of human dignity and rejection of conduct and acts that are degrading of human beings, are monumental achievements.



PROPOSED NEW LEGISLATION: Films and Publications Amendment Bill

The South African Parliament is currently considering a new Bill (the Films and Publications Amendment Bill), which amongst other things, proposes legalising and decriminalising online distribution of pornography.

Apart from the proposed legalising of online pornography, the Bill contains certain commendable interventions, such as prohibiting and criminalising “revenge porn”, child pornography, depictions of sexual assault and depictions of violence against children. It also requires distributors of online pornography to put measures in place to ensure that children will not be able to access their content. There is however no indication what these measures will be.

On 6 March 2018, the National Assembly (the 1st house of Parliament) adopted the Bill. The Bill will next go before the National Council of Provinces (“NCOP”) (the 2nd house of Parliament) to be debated, followed by a vote to decide whether the legislative proposals will be adopted or not.


THE CAUSE: What is the issue/problem?

Up to now, South African law has provided that adult content may only be legally distributed/broadcast and accessed/viewed inside a licensed adult premises, such as Adult World.

In highlighting some of the most troubling aspects of this new Bill to Parliament, Cause for Justice (“CFJ”)’s main comments have focussed on the fact that:

  1. Pornography (a specific type of adult content) violates the human dignity of the characters it depicts.
  2. There are various harms associated with exposure to all forms of adult content, not only for the adolescent viewer, but also the adult viewer, intimate partners of viewers, family relationships and vulnerable groups in society, such as victims of sexually violent crimes (mostly women and children).
  • CFJ dealt with parts of the scientific research evidence on the harms of exposure to adult content in a blog. A wider summary of the research on the harms of pornography is available here. We encourage everyone to read it, to acquaint yourself with the harms you and your family are exposed to through others’ exposure to pornography.
  • CFJ has prepared a short summary of our concerns regarding the Bill.


You have a VOICE: What can you do?

As South Africa is a democracy, every person is not only a number, but has a voice. Your voice will make a difference!

We encourage all who support this cause to add your voice in any of the following ways:


  • Spreading the word about this cause to others
  • Like our Facebook page and invite others to do the same, to keep updated on new developments
  • Make a financial contribution to assist and enable us to continue our work on this cause


FIGHTING THE FIGHT: What have we done and what do we intend to do?

From January 2013 up to March 2015, CFJ, together with two other organisations, fought and stopped the broadcasting of pornography on South African Television in the Starsat/ICASA matter.

In response to the introduction of the Bill in Parliament, CFJ answered the call to take part in the Parliamentary public participation process. CFJ provided the Portfolio Committee with initial written submissions .

From 30 August to 1 September 2016, the Portfolio Committee held public hearings on the Bill. CFJ presented oral submissions to Parliament on 30 August 2016. You can view our presentation here.

On Friday 25 November 2016, as part of the “16 days of activism for no violence against women and children” campaign, CFJ handed over a Memorandum in Parliament. The Memorandum refers to the impact that the Films and Publications Amendment Bill will have on the perpetration of sexual violence against women and children. You can view our Memorandum here.

During the course of 2017, CFJ followed the Parliamentary process closely and continued to give inputs into the committee deliberations. We ran a number of campaigns in 2017 and at the start of 2018 that yielded positive results, with a growing number of political parties crossing the floor to oppose the problematic provisions of the proposed law. Although opportunities for bringing positive change is running out, we have a great opportunity to influence the NCOP process at the start of the third term of 2018.

Cause for Justice encourages each South African and each NGO to strengthen their resolve and take part in the democratic process in support of the protection and promotion of the constitutional value of human dignity and to protect children and women from sexual exploitation.


Subscribe to our newsletter!

Thank you for subscribing!


Share this on your social networks.